Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Bakauke Five Cheese Sembei
The Bakauke brand seems to be exploding. I hadn't seen it in most markets when I started this blog, and now I'm seeing varieties of its banana-shaped rice crackers everywhere. This cheese flavor was at Seiyu supermarket and cost about $1.45 (about 140 yen), and it caught my eye amongst the see of fish and seaweed types.
Bakauke sembei has very good brand imagery and I think that's why it's catching on fast. Besides having a distinctive cracker shape, it also has a couple of distinctive mascots (as mentioned in my review of their wasabi sembei). Like many mascots for food products in Japan, they're rather crudely drawn and not really very attractive, but seem to help make the product more noticeable. For this particular bag of sembei, one of the little blurbs on the back mentions that every cracker packet inside has a mascot in a different get-up.
When I opened up the package, even before I breached one of the individual packets, I could smell the cheese powder used in these. The first whiff is highly reminiscent of Cheetos cheese puffs seasoning. The flavor is also rather similar, but these have more depth and variety to them. I'm guessing that's because of the five flavors of cheese that have been included - Edam, Swiss, cheddar, Camembert, and Gouda. You can detect the Swiss notes distinct from the cheddar in particular.
These are nicely cheesy, but not extreme. They have a bit of the typical rice cracker flavor, but not the heavily cooked flavor with soy that you sometimes get. The crackers are crisp and fresh and only about 45 calories per packet of two. If you're not a big fan of sembei, these may be a good stepping stone for you to transition from the "light" stuff to the heavy stuff. They're not quite as accessible as the garlic butter sembei (which I would call the non-sembei-tasting rice cracker), but they're a good second.